M-Sport managing director Malcolm Wilson has insisted he won’t sign up to the 2022 World Rally Championship regulations until he has confirmation that the new-specification Rally1 car can compete at all levels.
The much-vaunted 2017 World Rally Car represented the biggest change in the sport’s history, delivering the highest speeds ever but also reserving the cars for the WRC’s upper echelons only. That policy must be reversed if M-Sport is to sign up to 2022.
“For me and for M-Sport, it’s very, very simple,” Wilson told DirtFish. “We have to have cast-iron guarantees that these  cars can be purchased and driven in any championship around the world.
“We’re talking national championships, [FIA] regional rally championships, the whole lot. That’s the only way I can make the economics of this thing nearly stand up.
“Before 2017, we were selling between eight and 14 World Rally Cars every year. When we started 2017, that fell off a cliff. The last few years have been very, very difficult for us financially and, put plainly, we simply cannot continue in that fashion. And we won’t.”
FIA rally director Yves Matton has outlined plans to have all teams signed up to the 2022 season before the end of next month. Wilson is happy to conform to that timescale, providing he has confirmation of a return to the ubiquitous use of the world’s first hybrid Rally1 car.
“We’re having to question absolutely everything we’re doing up here right now,” said Wilson, “and the same goes for 2022. That’s the only thing which will make the difference for us regarding our commitment to 2022.”
Asked for clarification on whether privateers would be permitted to buy what’s widely expected to be a 2022-specification Ford-based Rally1 car, Matton explained the thinking behind the new car.
“The new Rally1 car due to launch in 2022 will target three points,” he said.
“The compulsory introduction of hybrid powertrains, a reduction in the initial build costs and, more importantly, the running costs by implementing a lot of the knowledge and experience gained through the Rally2 development and a further positive step in both safety and model range flexibility for manufacturers with the development of the safety cell, tubular chassis concept.
“This will allow private teams and gentleman drivers to access top-level cars and also new manufacturers to join as there is more access to this class than the current generation of WRC car.
“We have seen that private drivers are able to compete in the current WRC cars and we expect that the Rally1 class will mean that there is certainly more potential for private drivers to more regularly challenge.”
M-Sport Ford has a long history of packing out entry lists around the world with its full range of rally cars – a current range that includes the Fiesta R1 through to the Junior WRC-qualifying Fiesta R2 all the way up to the vastly successful Fiesta R5 and current Fiesta WRC.